The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce honored two local businesses as part of its Black Business Month Celebration at a ceremony at California Institute of the Arts on Thursday — drawing in elected officials, dignitaries and business leaders alike.
Elected officials in attendance included City Councilman Bill Miranda, City Councilwoman Marsha McLean and City Councilwoman Laurene Weste. Andrew Taban, field representative for Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, attended on behalf of her office.
Di Thompson, chair of the chamber’s Black Business Council and real estate agent for eXp Realty, said Thursday’s event was the first opportunity for the local Black business community to celebrate itself. The organization, she added, has been very well received in Santa Clarita.
“We have been, I want to say, received extremely positively in the community. I don’t know how many people realize how many Black-owned businesses there are, and we definitely want to promote more inclusion and more Black-owned businesses, business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals — whether they have their own business or not.”
Thompson elaborated, saying that it was also a way for members of the community to network, both inside and outside their respective fields. But, it was also a way to inform the community that they weren’t alone — that Black business communities exist all over the country and the world. Businesses from all over have also shown an interest in working with Black business communities but they sometimes don’t know where to find them.
Thompson said, as a long-time resident of the SCV, that one of the most gratifying parts of doing this type of organizing was providing these opportunities to her fellow business leaders.
“This is my opportunity to give back to a community that’s given so much to me, and I just can’t say enough,” said Thompson. “I have the advantage of being able to utilize my, I guess, community expertise and parlay that into my business. I just love every aspect of being able to be engaged in this community.”
The event honored two locally owned Black businesses: Heroes of Color and Omni Wound Physicians. Representing Heroes of Color was David Heredia, founder of the organization. Heroes of Color is an educational company that uses children’s books and animation as a tool to help children of color tell stories of their own experiences, as well as provide enrichment programs for grade-school-aged children as well as for higher education.
“I’m extremely proud of it, especially because a lot of my experiences came from what I did not have when I was graduating from school,” said Heredia. “I didn’t have enough business courses as a child, I wasn’t given permission to draw myself — meaning a Black character. All of my characters did not look like me. So this was liberating and it’s liberating for a child to know that they can draw themselves and feel like they belong, even if everybody around them looks completely different.”
Heredia said that in a time where there’s a range of issues on race and discrimination, particularly in regards to education, it was rewarding to help bridge a gap in that regard.
“Art has always been that tool that unites people, regardless of what your background is,” said Heredia.
Representing Omni Wound Physicians at the event was Dr. Izu Okpara, who also serves on the Black Business Council’s board of directors. Okpara is new to the council and was happy to start to get more involved. He also mentioned that creating a catalog of Black-owned businesses in Santa Clarita was a project of his, all in an effort to help expand the cause further.
Songwriter and producer Terrell Edwards provided music for the night’s event.